Where would we be without our faithful denim jeans? Jeans are one of the reliable foundations of our closet. Jeans have formed the basis of every man’s wardrobe for the last few decades and their popularity will, no doubt, continue far into the 21st century and beyond. But this is also a fact that in its journey from field to fabric, denim is one of the worst offenders of the environment. Dutch brand G-Star continues to incite positive change in the denim industry with its commitment to the issue of sustainability and transparency in jeans production. With pioneering denim innovations, the brand wants to eliminate waste altogether by focusing on circularity and sustainable materials to contribute towards a sustainable future.
Sustainable materials and a transparent supply chain
The major issues faced in Denim production are
- harmful finishing process
- huge water consumption which causes a massive scale of damage to the environment and scarcity of natural resources.
To reduce its environmental impacts, G-Star Raw is focusing specifically on circular design targeted for apparel re-use and usage of waste as a resource. It’s their internal target that by 2030 they want to make their entire collection from recycled/compostable materials. Since cotton makes up about 80% of all materials used by G-Star, today, 99% of the cotton they use are sustainably sourced (organic and BCI sourced cotton). It is, of course, now debatable whether BCI is sustainable or not.
G-Star Raw has developed a Code of Conduct for its suppliers to ensure that their products are made under fair and safe circumstances. This Code of Conduct outlines the minimum social and environmental standards they expect from each factory to meet. The Code is based on the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ILO Core Conventions, the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) Base Code, the SMETA Environmental Criteria, and ISO 14000. The Code of Conduct also references the G-Star Raw Materials Policy having banned fur and angora, while other animal products like wool must meet the highest ethical standards for animal welfare and protection. To ensure compliance and worker welfare, they observe environmentally conscious practices in the locations where they operate
“We work together with skillful suppliers that share our values of respecting people and the planet in order to make a high quality and sustainable product in a transparent manner,” the G-Star website states.
In line with sustainability, transparency has become an important issue further upstream in the supply chain. The fashion industry suffers from a rising trust deficit. Consumers are demanding to know much more about clothes, from where and how items are made to the design provenance and the item’s quality which gives them the possibility to make conscious choices. Being transparent is key to G-Star Raw: Back in 2014, the manufacturer revealed G-Star suppliers in a map of production locations in its online shop. On the so-called Manufacturing Map, consumers can transparently access information about where the products were made, the number of workers at each factory site, the gender balance, and any sustainability initiatives or certifications in place. The Manufacturing Map included all direct suppliers that they have been working with for at least two years and is updated every six months.
The cultivation of the materials has a negative impact on the environment, but the further processing of the fabric with washings and finishes is not really environmentally friendly. G-Star, therefore, made a public commitment to prevent the use of hazardous chemicals in its manufacturing processes. Together with its suppliers, the denim brand is also working on rolling out new techniques for dyeing and finishing processes that significantly reduce ecological impact.
In 2018, for instance, the Dutch company initiated its most ambitious project to date with the launch of its “Most Sustainable Jeans Ever” made from Cradle to Cradle Gold Level-certified denim. They even developed the “world’s cleanest indigo dyeing process”, which is normally a laborious and wasteful process, here, they use no salts, no sulfate bi-products, and 70% fewer chemicals. Additionally, no water is wasted during the entire wash process. Last year, G-Star also made the Cradle to Cradle Gold status possible with black denim and introduced the world’s most sustainable black denim fabric (as they claim it). This is made from pure organic cotton and is produced with a black liquid dye and pigment coating that is harmless to people and the environment. G-Star RAW has long been committed to scaling its sustainability efforts. By using each of its sustainable innovations as a building block for the next — and making these technologies openly accessible — the company also seeks to contribute to positive change in the denim industry.
Innovations that inspire to go further: On the occasion of Earth Day 2021, G-Star Raw recently presented the art project “Denim for Earth” in which various designers and artists were invited to design denim couture, taking their inspiration from the brand’s sustainable innovations. The result was a range of fascinating creations, from denim dyed with plant residues to opulent headpieces made from recycled fabric. In this art project, the denim brand wanted to show that fashion, denim, and sustainability can go hand in hand.
Images: G-Star Raw
In the above pic, designer Ferry Schiffelers created this couture dress with recycled denim. He used a traditional Japanese weaving technique, a method that breathes new life into discarded rags.